Should I Install Windows 8?
Microsoft’s next Operating System, Windows 8, is about to be launched on a suspecting public (and they’ve been suspecting for a long time at this stage). The big question is, should you bother? What is it that Windows 8 promises that Windows 7 or Vista or even XP (which according to statistics still accounts for 50% of the Operatings Systems in the world at this time) couldn’t manage?
You should note that the version of Windows 8 that we (and any other self respecting techie in the world) got it’s hands on is only a Release Preview, so it’s not the finished article. It is, however, very close to what Windows 8 will look and work like when released (God alone knows when that might be but you can be pretty certain it’ll be at least 2 months before Christmas 2012 in order to access the spending splurge that normally accompanies that time of the year – cynical I know, but true nonetheless).
Firstly, you should know where I stand on the whole ‘new Windows’ platform in general. I personally will not install any windows platform for at least 6 months after its initial release for the simple reason that Microsoft has proven over the years that it’s first releases are absolutely crawling with bugs – i.e. they don’t work properly out of the box, have loads of things that go wrong and gradually fix them with ‘updates’ over a period of time. When these fixes become incredibly large and voluminous they release ‘Service Packs’ to put all the fixes together. In essence, Microsoft is shockingly bad at releasing bug-free software first day. So don’t panic, you’ve got plenty of time to get your hands on this thing and it generally is a bit of a let-down if you are an ‘early-adopter’ because it will be full of annoying programming glitches. You should also remember that application software like accounts pacakges, printer & camera drivers, photo & video editing packages, etc. can take a while to have updates released that will work with the new software.
Microsoft uses us, the paying customer, to tell it what is wrong with a new operating system and it then spends the rest of the lifecycle fixing the problems we find as it goes on. In case you hadn’t noticed.
A further proviso, should you need one, is that Windows 8 cannot be rolled back, so if you install it over your current version of Windows 7 and wish to revert you’ll have to re-install Windows 7 from scratch (losing all your documents) in order to get your original operating system back. This is a very cute ploy on the part of Microsoft as, when it comes to the time to charge for Windows 8 (you didn’t honestly think you were going to get it for free did you? What do you think this is? Linux?) there will be no way back for those who have opted to upgrade their original operating system – the very epitome of a captive audience. If you are going to install the Windows 8 Preview then do yourself a favour and install it in a blank portion of your current Hard Disk partition (as a dual or multi-boot) or take out your current hard drive, invest in another and install it on the new one. It may cost a few bob to do this, but you could save yourself a lot of heartache in the long run.
So, after that clarification, on to Windows 8 and what you can expect. Let me preface this by saying that this is a cursory ‘first look’ examination of the Operating System (OS) based on nothing much more than how it looks, feels and performs to the lay user. It is not meant to be an in-depth examination of the ‘under the hood’ elements of the system, you can find those in many other places if you look hard enough.
If you’ve got an XBox or a Windows Phone, you ‘ll probably be saying ‘this looks very familiar’ and it does. Windows is, very actively, trying to assimilate all its diverse platforms so that people who use one will be familiar with another when they start to use it. Good in theory, but probably bad for anyone that’s tried to do anything on the XBox menu. It’s an absolute dog of a thing and you wouldn’t wish it on your worst enemy, not to mind your next computer.
On first glace the interface looks very, very different. But it’s not really. As with Windows 7, Windows 8 is an evolution, not a revolution. The shock of seeing the initial ‘Start’ screen (see initial post photo) can be quickly erased by moving on to the Dashboard screen, which makes it look a lot more familiar, presuming that’s what you’re looking for.
The one big thing that everybody will notice, and quite a few will miss, is the ubiquitous ‘Start’ button (used to have the four paned Windows screen in the bottom left hand corner, in later years referred to as ‘the Globe’). It’s gone. Nothing there at all. To some people this will be like losing a digit, or even an entire limb. But Microsoft claims anything that could be accessed using this single access point can now be found using the new Start screen. This theory may take some time to catch on. Personally I used to use the Start icon rather a lot (to find programs and Control Panel items that weren’t on the Desktop, but then I’m an IT professional and I probably go to places that normal users don’t visit that often). Time will tell no doubt, but I personally feel the loss of this button quite a bit. I’d equate it do losing your PC or mobile phone for a few days to a technician. When asked do you use it a lot you may well say, ‘well not really’, but when it’s actually gone you realise just how much you did use it and how much you miss it when it is not there. That’s how I feel about the Globe – I really, really, really miss it. It’s been there since Windows 95 (see below). That’s 17 years with the ‘Start’ menu, several generations in computing terms. Let’s see if I’ll eventually get over this.
In reality, though, that button hasn’t actually gone away at all, if you hold your cursor over the right hand corner of the screen you still get a similar, if slimmed down, menu that connects you to ‘Settings’, ‘Devices, ‘Start’, ‘Share’ and ‘Search’. This may, or may not, suffice. Clicking on ‘Start’, as suggested, gets you back to the ‘Start’ Screen, which in one way or another connects to everything you need to get to. Only time will tell whether this takes or not.
This, as you might have guessed, is only the first in what I would imagine will be numerous posts on the new MS Operating System. We would hope that these would be no-holds barred episodes that might guide you in your decision of whether you wish to upgrade right now, or not. Microsoft, as is its wont, will make sure you have to upgrade eventually via Planned Obsolesence, but you will have to decide whether to upgrade now or put it off until a later stage.